Gil Shaham gets a Strad

Gil Shaham gets a Strad


norman lebrecht

June 12, 2020

The US-Israeli violinist Gil Shaham has been given the long-term loan of a 1719 Stradivarius by Rare Violins In Consortium.

Shaham, 49, says: ‘I am very grateful to the anonymous benefactor and Rare Violins In Consortium for the use of this Stradivari violin … playing this remarkable violin is life-changing for people like myself. Imagine being given a new voice … imagine finding you can say things differently and even say different things … hats off to this organization and its supporters for improving musicians’ lives.’


  • Henry williams says:

    He is a very good Artist. He should be loaned the best violin.

    • engineers_unite says:

      And who is to say a Stradivarius is any good?
      In well known double blind tests, violinists invariably gave such instruments the lowest marks out of a series of new and other old instruments.

      Most of them have actually shrunk by up to 5% and many died since being hammered constantly by modern strings and/or by lunatics such as Sophie-nutter who sweats all over hers.
      All this infantile posturing and fakery makes me sick.

      Bring back musicianship and stop the “I’m worth 10 million dollars” mystical crap.

      Did Heifetz ever need to say what he was playing?

      • Anne-Sophie Hazelnut says:

        Heifetz did play and own the 1714 Dolphin Strad and 1743 David del Gesu, each now worth well over $ 10 millions….

    • Greg says:

      He is way more than very good. This violinist is in the very elite

  • Bruce says:

    Brings to mind the story of the violinist Dylana Jenson, who was loaned a fancy violin early in her career. When she got married, her benefactor took it back.

  • Anon says:

    Wasn’t he already playing on a Strad?

  • Mark says:

    Didn’t he play the “Comtesse de Polignac” 1699 Strad before ? Is this one better ?

  • What was he playing before?

  • Ludwig says:

    One would have thought that by now Mr. Shaham would have purchased his own Strad.

  • Andrea says:

    He’s been playing the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius (also on loan) for many years; I’m curious if he is giving up the “Countess Polignac” or if he will continue to play that one as well.

    • Sam McElroy says:

      He gets to upgrade from the Long period to the Golden period. Lucky for him. And lucky for us, because if his sound is even better than before, it will be pretty special indeed. He’s out of this world.

  • MacroV says:

    What happened to his previous violin? I do recall a DCH interview a couple years back when he was talking about it.

  • V.Lind says:

    Amazed he hadn’t had one, or a Guarnieri, before.

  • Karl says:

    He deserves that instrument. He is a musician with his own voice.


    It seems a shame to me that these instruments are owned by consortia. I wonder how many valuable string instruments are locked away?

    • Joseph says:

      It seems to me that it’s preferable that rare instruments like this are owned by consortia that make them available to deserving artists than owned by an ultra-rich collector who keeps it in a vault.

  • Qwerty1234 says:

    Does anyone know what he was playing on before?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    When I interviewed him for Fanfare years ago he was playing on long term loan (the Stradivari Society) the 1699 Comtesse di Polignac “long pattern” Strad. We talked about the responsibilities of using such a precious instrument and he told me that it did make him nervous and that when he carried it he held it in such a way that if he was hit by a car, he’d be hit before the violin was. I do not think he was entirely joking, although he is very funny.

  • John Kelly says:

    Can’t wait to hear this (after Covid). Hands down my favorite violinist. I remember a stunning Bruch first concerto in Amsterdam with Jansons. That hall made an already gorgeous tone super lush and immensely satisfying. Same violin (I assume) nowhere near as great sounding in the Barber at Geffen Hall. The hall makes an enormous difference! Gil is such a warm artist with great chops. I love the guy.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    What instrument was he using previously?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Maybe he’s going for a complete set?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Random observations.

    It will be an increasingly rare thing for concert violinists, even those in the “high fee/lots of engagements” category, to purchase a top quality instrument these days. Maybe Perlman and David Garrett and Andre Rieu or Vanessa Mae have the money, and at least Perlman deserves the best. And most of the famous name violinists went through (or are going through) several great ones during their careers, Heifetz among them (and the aficionados can rattle off what Heifetz owned and played at the drop of a hat, it was always known what he played. When he switched instruments it was news).

    I read an interview with Ruggiero Ricci where he grimly remarked of his ex-Huberman del Gesu “I got it the hard way – by buying!” And he owned other and played on even more. It seems unbelievable to read Steven Staryk’s co-written autobiography and read the page after page of the great violins he personally owned, on a concertmaster’s salary, and the even larger number he was allowed to use – I doubt if any concertizing violinist had more great instruments go through his hands than Staryk, with the possible exception of Ricci. And Staryk is also frank about which ones were not worth the money and had serious problems.

    And the days are over when “even” some of the best New York and Los Angeles session violinists (“even” is in quotes because these were incredible players) had a Strad or Bergonzi or Amati or del Gesu. David Nadien had a del Gesu for example. Heck, Dick Kesner played a Strad on the Lawrence Welk show.

    While one might regret that only the uber-wealthy are really in the market now, at least some of them are enlightened enough to realize that a great instrument retains value better if it is played rather than resides in a vault. Even a mediocre violin (I have 5) is better if played, by a long shot. So things like the Stradivari Society or similar organizations and such as the consortium that has lent to Shaham should be praised for serving as the intermediary between owner and worthy artist. Those organizations are vital to matching great violin and artist. It is far sadder to think of the glorious violins which might never be heard in public again.

    No different than some glorious works of art I suppose. Some are owned but lent to museums, others are just owned and privately enjoyed or worse yet, simply stored.

    I had read and heard the double blind tests and have no problem believing that musicians often prefer AGAINST the sound of expensive Strads or del Gesus, and that perhaps many of the instruments have seen better days in terms of sound quality. But there is another factor, and that is the feel. Playing a wonderful violin, regardless of how it sounds, often feels like nothing else. And that feel has quite a bit to do with how you phrase and toss off technical passages. The ONLY way I ever was able to play the opening passage of the Lalo Symphonie espagnole with any kind of ease or elegance (such as it was) was when my violin teacher grew frustrated (not rare) and said, “here damn it play it on my fiddle.” And it was a very good one, but hardly famous, a Fagnola, which sadly he sold to fund his (short-lived as it turned out) marriage. So for those few minutes I was driving a Lexus not a Nissan.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I’m enjoying David Nelson’s knowing comments on violins and violinists. More, please!